Women of Action

Women of Action

2016 Alumnae Award winners
By Sara Berhow

Each year, St. Kate’s recognizes outstanding graduates who lead and influence in the best St. Catherine tradition. Here are our 2016 Alumnae Award winners:

​MYSEE CHANG is this year’s recipient of the Rising Star Award, recognizing young alumnae making an impact. In 2014, she was named a Fulbright Fellow and spent 14 months as an English teacher at Savannakhet University in Laos.

Her work included creating the curriculum for two courses focused on Asian and Western culture. Mysee also volunteered for VivNcuas, Sisterhood for Development in Vientiane. There, she wrote grant proposals and tutored program participants in English. “I had a very full year in Laos,” she says. “It was an amazing experience. I grew and developed so much.”

In 2015, Mysee joined College Possible as a program coordinator. She manages eight coaches at Twin Cities high schools who mentor 360 low-income students seeking college admission. “I often think about how I will make change in the world,” she says. “Young people are the ones who will solve many of our problems. I want to empower them to find solutions.”

Mysee joined the Alumnae Council in 2015, eager to give back to her alma mater.

“My time at St. Kate’s was transformational. I made it through college because so many people reached out their hands to help me when I was a student,” she says. “I want to do the same for others.”

Throughout her life, MARY ELLEN KENNEDY has taken care of others. From her career as an elementary school teacher to her extensive volunteer work, she has made a difference in many lives.

Mary Ellen had a 35-year career teaching fifth and sixth grade. She always took the time to care for each student in her class. “No matter how a student might struggle, she is an important person and she is worthwhile,” says Mary Ellen. “I’ve had students tell me some of the little things I did really meant something to them.

She invested in building one-on-one relationships with many types of people. She has participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters, tutored students at Christo Rey Catholic School, tutored adult ESL students preparing for job interviews and citizenship exams, and mentored women at the Shakopee Correctional Facility. She is also a charter member of the Ignation Volunteer Corps.

Mary Ellen says volunteer work is the thing that makes her happiest. “It’s so important for me to be doing something for someone else,” she says.

Mary Ellen has kept close ties to her alma mater, serving on her class leadership team and Reunion planning committees. “My time at St. Kate’s was so worthwhile,” she notes, “and I like to give back.”

JUNE KLAPHAKE formed her consulting business in 2002, after turning down a full-time job offer that wasn’t the right fit. Fourteen years later, Klaphake Communications is thriving.

As a change consultant, June helps clients through complex organizational changes. She’s able to strip a situation down to the basics and put together a plan to move her client forward. As a mentor to young professionals, she stresses the importance of participation in professional associations, and taking opportunities to learn.

“Invest in education, and do it regularly,” she advises. “It builds confidence.”

Running her own business gave June the flexibility she needed to raise her children, Charlie (20), Ahna (18), Elizabeth (15) and Leah (9), who all participated in scouting. June continues to serve as a troop leader and volunteer coordinator for Girl Scouts at Nativity of Our Lord School in St. Paul.

“The Girl Scouts is so much more than crafts and hiking,” she says. “It’s a leadership program. It’s developing little girls into strong women. It’s a natural fit for me.”

June is thankful for role models who not only mentored her at St. Kate’s but taught her how to do the same for others. “I left St. Kate’s with a sense that if I put my mind to any task, I can do it,” she says.

JUDI DRUKE TESKE’S career in healthcare is long and accomplished. After St. Kate’s, she moved to Washington, D.C. and worked as a medical technologist. In the years that followed, she served as a lobbyist, a fundraiser, a political appointee and a leader at the medical technology corporation Amgen.

“My grounding in science and healthcare from St.Kate’s gave me the wings to fly,” she explains.

Today, Judi remains active with the Providence Health Foundation, and serves as the chair of the advisory council for St. Kate’s Henrietta Schmoll School of Health.

When asked how her alma mater impacted her life, she replies: “In every way possible.” 

Judi says St. Kate’s gave her expanded knowledge, grounding in theology and philosophy, critical thinking skills, an appreciation for lifelong learning, and scholarships.

She didn’t know her benefactors’ names, but she knew their impact. She established the Judi Teske Endowed Scholarship Fund to return the favor.

She also generously supports other organizations. Growing up in Belle Plaine, Minnesota, Judi experienced community service in a natural, organic way. Neighbors helped neighbors. At St. Kate’s, she encountered the same acts of generosity.

“The CSJs were incredible examples,” she remembers. “They were strong, well-educated and had can-do attitudes. We knew we were being educated not just for ourselves, but for the world.”

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